What's Up With Apple: NY Times Backs Epic, Tesla Follows Apple Lead in China, and More

New York Times op-ed columnist Farhad Manjoo has a few choice words Wednesday for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) related to the outcome of round one in what’s sure to be a continuing fight with Epic Games. Manjoo calls Apple’s 30% fee on purchases from the App Store the “Apple Tax” and “a scourge affecting just about every Apple customer and the software developers who want to build apps for them”

According to Manjoo, the “controls and fees that [Apple] imposes on apps are indefensible.” He cites a courtroom exchange last Friday between CEO Tim Cook and Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers during which the judge asked Cook why Apple won’t allow people to pay for their App Store purchases. Cook responded by saying that if Apple allowed that, “we would in essence give up our total return” on Apple’s own intellectual property.

That argument seems particularly weak. Does Cook really think that it is the courts’ job to protect Apple’s profit margins? As Manjoo writes:

Apple has clear market power in the app business, and because its software tends to lock users into its ecosystem — once you choose an iPhone, going to some other kind of phone is arduous — there is effectively little competition in the market for smartphones. That power must be policed. If the courts fail to do it, lawmakers ought to step in.

That’s not an unpopular take on the situation. Even if lawmakers do step in, any resolution is likely years away. And Apple will not be sitting on its hands, hoping for the best. While Apple may pocket some $72 billion in annual revenue from the App Store, there are those who argue that the addition of App Tracking Transparency to iOS is a signal that Apple eventually will give in on the App Store issues and begin chasing the $350 billion pot of gold that is mobile advertising.

The New York Times last week reported on the compromises that Apple had made in order to maintain access to China’s vast market for iPhones and other mobile devices. Turns out, according to TechCrunch, that Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) is working on a similar plan to maintain locally the data the company collects from its Chinese customers. Tesla announced its data center plans on its Weibo site in China (via Google Translate):

Tesla is honored to have discussions with industry experts on the “Several Provisions on the Management of Automotive Data Security (Draft for Comment)”. We firmly support the standardized development of the industry.

We have established a data center in China to localize data storage and will continue to add more local data centers. All data generated from the sales of vehicles in the Chinese mainland market will be stored in China.

We already have noted that Apple will open a new Apple Store in the central shopping district of Rome. The company announced Wednesday morning that the store will open on Thursday, May 27. Called Apple Via del Corso, the new store is located in a building constructed in 1873 as a coffee shop. Apple’s press release includes some fine photos of the new store.

Finally, citing a report in Taiwan’s DigiTimes, MacRumors reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (aka, TSMC) has begun production runs of Apple’s A15 Bionic chip for the iPhone 13. The next iPhone is expected to be announced in September.